Escape to the Chateau

’Anything else?’ the book says.

’What do you mean?’

’That you want to tell me?’

There is a long silence, during which I sit at my desk and look out of the window below it, at the people coming and going, taking kids to school, power hosing their cars, stopping for a chat, being pulled along by their dogs, pushing prams, walking to work looking at their mobile phones.

’I don’t know if I want to,’ I say. ‘I don’t know if I’ve got the energy.’

’You never do,’ says the book. ‘Never will, I mean. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this business, it is that we, you and I, I mean, and by implication everyone else, is never ready and never will be. It’s the deal. If we waited to have energy we would be stuffed.’

’Sometimes I feel I am,’ I say. ‘Stuffed. Beached. Stranded. It never goes away.’

The book takes out a notebook and begins making some notes.

’Am I material now?’ I say.

’You always were. Being stuffed never goes away either, by the way. You have to deal with that too. It’s the deal.’

’Is everything the deal?’ I say.

’Pretty much,’ the book says. ‘What was it Heaney said, “expect aurora borealis/…/ but no cascade of light.” I think that pretty much nails it.’

’It doesn’t sound much fun.’

’Fun! Who said anything about that?’

’You can be very grown up sometimes,’ I say. ‘I rather like it.’

But the book isn’t listening. It has found an old episode of Escape to the Chateau on Channel 4. ‘I love this bit,’ it says without looking at me. ‘It’s the bit where Dick Strawbridge has to invent a hog roaster for a wedding party out of this ancient oil tank. I think it might be a metaphor.’

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